2013-2014: An Outstanding Season

SSC_Much_Ado_2013-1125-crop
The cast of “Much Ado About Nothing” (2013)

After closing out the financial records for Seattle Shakespeare Company’s 2013-2014 season, Managing Director John Bradshaw announced that the company ended the year in the black with revenues of $1.6 million, a record high for the company.  This is the 13th straight year that the company has ended the year with a positive fund balance.

“In a year when we thought we would be pulling back due to a loss of one production at the Cornish Playhouse, it actually turned into a banner year,” said Managing Director John Bradshaw.

Performances of its indoor productions – Much Ado About Nothing, Richard II, The Importance of Being Earnest, and King Lear – at two different venues – played to 76% of capacity, a 5% increase in attendance from the previous season which also had a larger capacity. The Importance of Being Earnest played to 99% of capacity and was sold-out for the majority of the run.

Seattle Shakespeare Company renewed its partnership with Shakespeare Walla Walla and transferred its productions of Richard II and The Importance of Being Earnest to the Gesa Powerhouse Theatre in Walla Walla for eight performances. The company also partnered with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra for a presentation of Duke Ellington’s Shakespeare-inspired Such Sweet Thunder Suite in February.

The theatre’s state-wide touring productions of Romeo and Juliet and Othello had 60 performances and played to more than 15,000 people across Washington State, from Spokane to Orcas Island, during its three month tour from March through May.

Attendance at its free Wooden O summer productions of The Tempest and Henry V increased by 14% from the year prior, playing to nearly 12,000 people in park venues as far north as Lynnwood, as far south as Des Moines, and as far east as Sammamish. Roughly half of the total attendance was at Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island.

Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Education programs reached more than 2800 students in their classrooms with more than two-thirds of those students experiencing multi-day residencies. The company’s student matinee performances served 3,350 students from than 94 different schools and homeschools throughout the region.

At Bill’s Bash, Seattle Shakespeare Company’s annual gala, funds totaling $220K were raised to support the organization’s programs, a record for the event.

Seattle Shakespeare Company employed 95 actors (28% AEA, 100% local) and 111 directors, designers, stage managers, artisans and technicians for its productions during the season.

“What all this says to me is that classical theatre is an important part of contemporary theatre,” said Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Artistic Director George Mount. “There is not only a need, but a hunger for the great stories of the past in today’s world. We’re so pleased to be fulfilling that need for people throughout the Seattle area and across the state.”

Bright Spots of 2013

At Seattle Shakespeare Company, we start our staff meetings by sharing Bright Spots that have happened to us in the week. These are triumphant moments, both big and small, that acknowledge the positive aspects of our jobs.  It’s fun to share them with staff members who may not have been around to experience them directly.

This year, we asked our board, staff, and artists to give us their Bright Spots of the past year, and what they had to share is listed below. Did you have a Bright Spot at Seattle Shakespeare Company in 2013? Let us know in the comments section.

 

Jennifer Lee Taylor as Beatrice and Matt Shimkus as Benedick in Seattle Shakespeare Company's 2013 production of "Much Ado About Nothing." Photo by John Ulman.

The interaction with the water feature in Much Ado.

David Allais, Board member

 

Jennifer Sue Johnson as Nora and Michael Patten as Torvald in Seattle Shakespeare Company's 2013 production of "A Doll's House." Photo by John Ulman.

A standout for me was the entire production of A Doll’s House. Great director, wonderful cast and very appreciative audiences.

Rod Pilloud, Stage Manager

 

1) Here’s a serious answer:
Seeing the energy, skill, dedication, and passion that the Wooden O actors and stage managers brought with them each night to every park — new or familiar — was nothing short of inspiring.

2) And here’s a laugh:
Also, if you ever wondered whether or not it’s a good idea to melt chocolate over an open flame that’s propped up on some stones on the grass (or if a tea towel will sufficiently put out the inevitable grass-fire without bursting into flames itself) … it’s not (and it won’t). The Great Flaming Fondue Fiasco of 2013. Never Forget.

To all my friends at Seattle Shakes — thanks for a beautiful summer and some lovely lasting friendships <3

Kaeline Kine, Wooden O Site Manager

 

Amy Thone as Prospero in Seattle Shakespeare Company's 2013 Wooden O production of "The Tempest."

The most memorable moment with Seattle Shakespeare this year was the final performance of The Tempest , specifically the curtain call. Being surrounded by these amazingly talented people who had inspired and taught me so much, with a lazy summer sun setting in the background casting a pink hue on everyone. I looked around and promised myself to never forget that moment: Holding Pilar’s hand, and George crying harder than anyone else and every face in the audience smiling. I couldn’t have asked for a better or more beautiful moment to recognize that my life had profoundly changed.

Kellyn Traeckenschuh, actor

 

Betsy Schwartz as Mrs. Linde and Peter Dylan O'Connor as Krogstad in Seattle Shakespeare Company's 2013 production of "A Doll's House." Photo by John Ulman.

The atmosphere of the rehearsal room over at SCT for A Doll’s House was one of the most supportive and generous that I have ever experience. From Russ down to little Mia, the cast and crew worked so lovingly and honestly on this powerful play. My contribution was small but I felt so honored to be included in the production.

Laura Ferri, actor

 

The War of Kindness between Tempest and Henry 5!

Michael Patten, actor

 

Romeo and Juliet at Olympic Sculpture ParkRomeo and Juliet at the Olympic Sculpture Park – how the cast improvised to incorporate the roof top of the temporary house into the balcony scene – also watching casual passers-by stop, astonished, to watch the superb performance. They tore themselves away so very reluctantly.

Sarah Alsdorf, Board member

 

Kelly Kitchens as Kate and David Quicksall as Petruchio in Seattle Shakespeare Company's 2013 production of "The Taming of the Shrew" Photo by Chris Bennion.

Watching audience members cry because they were laughing so hard at the antics of the cast of Taming of the Shrew, then watching Bash supporters raise their bid cards after Kelly Kitchens (our “Kate”) lifted them with her own moving story. I’m proud of SSC’s wonderful works and our fabulous fans!!

Sue Petitpas, Board member

 

Loved the story that Kelly Kitchens shared onstage at this year’s “Bash.” She crystalized the art and idealism that drives Seattle Shakespeare to do what we do. Brilliant.

Jeannie Blank, Board member

 

Mike Dooly as Stephano and Brian D. Simmons as Caliban in Seattle Shakespeare Company's 2013 Wooden O production of "The Tempest."

While performing at Seatac Park this summer in The Tempest, a young man approached me during setup and asked me what we were doing. I told him we would be performing Shakespeare tonight for free.

He then asked “What’s Shakespeare?” Inwardly I died a little, but I told him he should hang around and find out. He did. Sitting front row center with a huge smile. He came up after, shook my hand, and said than you. Best moment in my career.

Brian Simmons, actor

 

I suspect that most folks focus on the final product–the art. My highlight of the past year was watching the “making of” disc. George blossoming into his new role; Michelle and Casey coming into their own; John and George on stage opening night doing Martin & Lewis.

Phil Miller, Board member

 

Amy Thone (Prospero) standing on a big mossy rock in the island forest wilderness (the stage stairs/promontory), reaching her long thin arms toward the sky…my idea of an actor, reaching…

Susan Wilder, Board member

 

Love's Labour's Lost (2013)

Making my directing debut with Seattle Shakespeare Company last winter was a time of pure joy and deep fulfillment. Everyone in the Love’s Labours Lost family, both on stage and off, were so supportive, creative and loving that it made the process from first day of rehearsal through closing night unforgettable. On a personal note, Love’s Labours Lost was the first show I directed after conquering cancer last December and I cannot think of a more glorious way to celebrate life and art – my deepest gratitude and love to all of you!

Jon Kretzu, Director of Love’s Labour’s Lost

 

The Taming of the Shrew 2013When I cast Brandon Ryan as Biondello in our remount of The Taming of the Shrew… well, I had no idea how far we could go…

Because this actor is: CRAZY AND FREAKIN TALENTED!!!!

Brandon reminded me:

There are very few limitations in the theater…

We didn’t have to follow any of the rules!

What a joyful experience for a director to work with an actor who is so open to an organic, undetermined process!

Seriously – this is truly rare with any sort of actor.

Shrew will always hold a special place in my creative heart!

Aimée Bruneau, Director of The Taming of the Shrew

 

The absolutely stunning and poignant production of Taming of the Shrew – the intensity of the emotions and wonderful staging.

Shawn Aebi, Board member

 

The cast of Seattle Shakespeare Company's 2013 Wooden O production of "The Tempest."

Closing night of Tempest and Wooden O’s 20th anniversary season was one of the most moving events I’ve been a part of as an actor.

Jim Lapan, actor

 

Henry V 2013

It was so fulfilling to do the Fight Direction on Henry V for Wooden O. I had to leave for my honeymoon just before tech. When we returned 3 weeks later, it was an absolute delight to see the show after a few weeks of performances. It seemed that the players had really found their “sea legs” and I we truly loved the experience.

Peter Dylan O’Connor, actor/fight choreographer

 

The Taming of the Shrew 2013

The remount of Wooden O’s production of The Taming of the Shrew was last season’s highlight for me. The chance to be reunited with such a marvelous troupe of players was glorious. It was a real joy to rejoin Kelly Kitchens and unleash our inner rednecks while spouting the words of Shakespeare!

David Quicksall, actor

 

Love's Labour's Lost (2013)

All the bizarre rituals we created backstage during the run of Love’s Labour’s Lost. They got stranger and stranger as the run progressed.

Brandon Simmons

 

Much Ado About Nothing 2013

I truly enjoyed the hilariously funny Much Ado About Nothing, with its terrific set and cast. Seeing George Mount on stage as Don Pedro was a highlight!

Lynne Graybeal, Board member

 

Being present in the room at Bill’s Bash as Kelly Kitchens voiced the dreams of a little girl, brought to life by the visual power of live Shakespeare, and realizing Seattle Shakespeare Company has the power and the mission to continue that dream.

Roberta Greenwood, Board member

 

A highlight for me was our Bill’s Bash event this past spring. I was incredibly moved by the tremendous outpouring of support from our patrons and donors. It was a fun-filled night and the most successful fundraiser in SSC’s history, raising more than $210,000 to support our work in the community. Way to go, everyone!

Lauren Domino, Development Director

Talking Summer Shakespeare With George Mount on the Arts Channel

George Mount at rehearsals for Wooden O's 1997 production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
George Mount at rehearsals for Wooden O’s 1997 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Wooden O Theatre celebrates 20 summers of free outdoor Shakespeare with 38 performances of Henry V and The Tempest in 12 outdoor venues across Seattle in July and August. KING FM talks with Artistic Director George Mount on the Arts Channel about the plays, both chosen with the 20th anniversary in mind. It’s going to be a great summer of Shakespeare outdoors!

 

Kelly Kitchens on The Tempest

Kelly Kitchens (far right) in rehearsal for The Tempest with Jim Lapan, Jim Gall, Brandon J. Simmons, and Meg McLynn
Kelly Kitchens (far right) in rehearsal for The Tempest with Jim Lapan, Jim Gall, Brandon J. Simmons, and Meg McLynn

It’s hard to believe, but Kelly Kitchens, even with her deep love of Shakespeare, wasn’t all that drawn to The Tempest. Yet, it ‘s a play that kept coming back to her and asking her to explore it. “It’s a play that’s not done with me yet,” she said.  Kelly’s directing The Tempest for Wooden O this summer. Take 5 minutes and listen to what she thinks about the play now.

Twenty Years of Wooden O

Wooden O celebrates its 20th Anniversary season this summer with productions of Henry V (the company’s namesake play) and The Tempest. We spoke with some Wooden O alums about their fondest memories of performing in the parks.

If you have a favorite Wooden O memory, please share it with us in the comments section.  We’d love to hear from you.

 Wooden O Dramatis Personae

Louise Butler: One Wooden O show in 2011 (Macbeth); returning this summer to stage manage Henry V.

Jim Gall: Two Wooden O shows, first in 2008 (A Midsummer Night’s Dream); returning this summer in The Tempest

David S. Hogan: Five Wooden O shows, first in 2002 (The Two Gentlemen of Verona); returning this summer in Henry V.

Kelly Kitchens: Five Wooden O shows, first in 2002 (The Winter’s Tale); returning this summer to direct The Tempest.

Michael Patten: Three Wooden O shows, first in 2006 (Hamlet); returning this summer in Henry V.

David Quicksall: (Four Wooden O shows, first in 2005 (Twelfth Night); returning this summer in Henry V.

Amy Thone: (Seven Wooden O shows, first in 1996 (Henry V); returning this summer in The Tempest.

 

Smiles on a Summer Night

Kelly Kitchens Shrew, I have to say, is always going to have a special place in my heart. Getting to throw a beer can across the stage, who doesn’t love that?  It’s hard to pick! I’d do it every summer. I would load up the van anytime they asked me to.

David Quicksall When we did The Taming of the Shrew at Steel Lake in Federal Way, this kid brought her pet bunny.  At very inopportune moments, the bunny kept running onto the stage and was part of the action, and the little kid had to run up on stage to corral her bunny.

David S. Hogan I have a pretty big spot in my heart for The Taming of the Shrew, because there were so many of my friends in that show, along with my wife, Angela DiMarco. I just love working with the family. To me this really feels like a family. I think this is my sixth show, and just being outdoors, you feel such a palpable connection to the audience. I can’t compare it to any other theatrical community experience. It’s just terrific.

Amy Thone My favorite memory is from a long time ago. In fact, it’s so long ago and I’m so old that it’s a little bit foggy.  We did Henry V and Todd Jamieson, may he rest in peace, directed it. In fact, his wife was in it and his kid, Harry, was an intern, and I played the Chorus. My daughter, who was then three, wandered around and usually had somebody taking care of her…thank God!  But at one point the Chorus says this beautiful line about a “little vessel having a great heart.”  And when I said the line, I watched my daughter wander around in the park, and I got to think of her as this great heart in a little body.

Kelly Kitchens The Winter’s Tale was special for me. That moment when Leontes says “Oh, she’s warm” and that statue comes back to life…I remember being down in SeaTac at Angle Lake Park and hearing that collective gasp from the audience when she moves. It’s a story that I really love to tell and the opportunity to live inside that world and create that character, it was an act of grace. Hermione is a woman who’s fighting passionately for her family. Playing her changed me a little bit. Also it was my first Wooden O show, so it’s always going to have such a special place in my heart.

Louise Butler My favorite Wooden O memory is swimming off of Mercer Island two summers ago for Macbeth. It was great. Everybody in the cast of Mackers brought their trunks or their swimsuits and we hung out. It was an idyllic summer day.

Michael Patten My favorite Wooden O moment…it’s almost impossible to pick just one, but the very first show I did with Wooden O playing Claudius with George as Hamlet.  Also getting to be the first show that went to Vashon Island last year with The Winter’s Tale.  It was pretty magical.

David Quicksall My favorite Wooden O moment was last year in The Winter’s Tale as Autolycus.  When I made my entrance, I would eat people’s food and drink their wine or whatever they had available. I went up to this one couple that had a big bottle of Mountain Dew. I cracked open the top of it and took a huge swallow, and by the time it got into my mouth and halfway into my stomach, I realized it was almost all vodka. So I had to make a decision whether to swallow all this alcohol that was in my mouth…remember I still had a whole show to do…or spit it out.  So I swallowed it.

Kelly Kitchens But then, there’s the Bull Pen…There’s a place near SeaTac called the Bull Pen. It’s epic. It’s a Wooden O tradition that if you’re down there performing you gotta make a pit stop at the Bull Pen.  They do karaoke. Not college karaoke…these people are serious about their karaoke. And you can get a lot of fried brown at this place, so that’s a lot of fun.

Jim Gall My favorite memory happened last year. I was playing Sir Toby Belch, and I had a gag where I had a water bottle around my waist and I used it urinate my name on the backdrop. But at once performance, I forgot to get the top back on and it soaked my pants, so I spent the rest of the show like a skid row bum with a big stain on my shorts.  Everyone enjoyed it except for me.

Kelly Kitchens It’s such a family, that’s why it’s hard to pick a favorite memory. George Mount has such a gift for creating family, building a company, and telling these stories. The family of Wooden O that he has created, it’s arms are open wide and they enfold every member…and so a favorite memory, it’s hard because it’s like which favorite Christmas did you have growing up?  It’s hard to choose. What I do love about it is that no matter where you go or whether you’re performing that summer or not, you’re part of the Wooden O family.